Book writing competition award function

Two weeks back I was in my desk at office trying hard to (pretending) work. I can hear you say it doesn’t really matter, who in management really work nowadays. It may be true but we will discuss that on a different day. My extension rang, not to give an impression I am free I waited for 4 rings before answering. It was from my front office informing me of a visitor. The visitor was Jayalakshmi Thirugnanam, the founder and editor of CosyReading – a Book Reading community.  I am not a writer nor an advertiser, while I was wondering on that Jaya began by inviting me to an award function happening later in the month. And that’s how I came to be in Besant Nagar “Spaces” today evening giving a speech and distributing prizes along with notables of the city.

CosyReading.com 2014 award function
CosyReading.com 2014 award function

The evening event was for awards distribution for budding writers across categories – short story, romance, poetry, fantasy, children’s fiction and romance. The jury who read the entries and selected the winners  are Swarnalatha Bhaskaran, Sandhya Sridhar, R.J. Kalpana and Latha Ramesh. I was happy to be sharing the stage with Tamil Publisher Gandhi Kannadasan, SSLF City Founder G.Sakthivel and a young 13 year old author Yamini Prashant.

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When I entered the venue (“spaces”) which is opposite to Besant Nagar Elliots Beach I was surprised to find a large audience. The venue itself was beautiful and serene. I was asked by Jaya to speak first,  putting lot of faith in my ability not to make the crowd thin out quickly.

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This is what I spoke:

“The other day when I visited Citi Centre Landmark I saw they were having a closing sale. Though I was happy to get some books at good discounts I was sad to see one more bookstore closing. I was buying all my books online from Flipkart or BookAdda but thinking more on this back home I realized I was actually buying and reading more books than ever. The online shops have made it easier and affordable to buy books. With my Amazon Kindle I can choose from millions of titles, hitherto inaccessible for someone outside the country in which it got published. Add to this sites like GoodReads or CosyReading bring in a dynamic community to the mix. Considering all this I feel our present time (21st Century) is the best time to be a reader (and/or a writer) in the history of humankind. Never before we had the access and opportunity to read this many books.
Today there are a new set of writers who are coming in. These are not journalist or who we view as traditional full time writers. These are professionals like Engineers, Entrepreneurs, Doctors, Bankers who have achieved and have taken up writing bringing in their writing, an accuracy about their past profession which was unprecedented. For example look at these books.
1. A dead computer game company billionaire killing people and taking over the world using an Internet Daemon. The book “Daemon” by Daniel Suarez who was a computer consultant for defense and fortune firms.
2. Entire alien civilization going crazy over Human music from 1977. Having become indebted to Earth for pirating they reach to a budding lawyer Nick Carter in New York mistaking him to be Nick Carter of Backstreet boys. This is “Year Zero” by Rob Reid who is founder of Rhapsody.
Back home in India we have two examples:
3. “The Steradian trail“, a murder mystery and a computer algorithm thriller by IITian M.N.Krish. Where Maths genius Srinivasa Ramanujan and our own Chennai are important characters.
4. Rishi Piparaiya, the head of sales and marketing with a large financial service MNC has written a humorous take on the boredom of today’s Air travel in his book “Aisle be damned
The above books are not business books, not technical books, they are all fiction written by professionals.
I am not an author but a blog writer, I write my blogs as a de-stressing mechanism, a way to move bits from my biological memory to digital where I can share them to everyone and not repeat my experience everytime. Finally I am the biggest reader of my blog, if I don’t read my blog myself often who else will. I enjoy the writing and reading.
In summary today is the best time to be a writer. Start writing”.
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Then the other notables had their turn at the podium. First it was Yamini, the young author.
Yamini – it was astounding to hear this girl speak. Great clarity in her expression and voice. It was a delight to see the pride in the faces of her parents who were sitting in the back. Yamini talked of her dejection after 49 publishers rejected her first book script, but she kept trying. Many of them writing back that they publish books for children and not by children. Finally the 50th publisher, a small timer agreed to publish her work and then she became a sensation. Yamini’s mother posed this “for children and not by children” rule as a question to Gandhi Kannadasan, who deftly replied it to be due to publishers being not able to separate real child talent over a work by an over-protective mother. Gandhi added an example on how the mom’s prepare and spoon-feed kids for a simple painting competition in Chennai Book Fair, thereby destroying any creativity left in the child.

G.Saktivel – a self made entrepreneur attributed half of his success to the great books he read. He added “எதிர்காலம் மட்டுமல்ல நிகழ்காலமும் எழுத்தாளர்களின் கையில் தான் உள்ளது”, meaning not only future the present is also in the hands of writers.

Gandhi Kannadasan – the son of legendary Tamil writer Kannadasan, is a delight to listen. He advised writers about the six Rs to keep in mind — Read, Refer, Remember, Respect, Refuse and Recreate. He quoted example of how his father remembers everything he read, whether its the style of a poem he read in a newspaper in 1950s using it in a song he wrote in 1960s; similarly borrowing from Shakespear style of a paragraph in one of his other song. He stressed on the need to refer a lot, especially Google the facts before you write.

After the event driving back home I was looking back at what turned out to be a fine evening with lot to think about. Thank you Jaya!

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Thiru M.S.Viswanathan CD Relaunch

Few months back Mr.Kamesh Bavaratnam (@kameshratnam) contacted me through Twitter asking if I had any Gramophone records of Mellisai Mannar (King of Melodies) Thiru M.S.Viswanathan (MSV). That’s how we started one of our many messages over past few weeks. Thanks to an invite from him I went for today’s Relaunch event of MSV’s Thrilling Thematic Tunes Album by MSVTimes.com.

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I learnt that this Album was originally launched in 1970s during a time when MSV was at his career peak working endlessly on Tamil Film music compositions. HMV had worked with MSV in bringing out this compilation of his individual tracks titled “Thrilling Thematic Tunes”. The album’s LP Record was the first in South India to be made in (then)Stereophonic system. The album contains tracks of varied themes  including Reminiscences, Village/Urban divide, War, Train Track, East-West Wedding, Melody & Lord Krishna’s Rasa Leela.

I was born in 1970s, so by the time I started watching Tamil Film’s it was all Ilaiyaraja. Even then I was touched by MSV music. Two of my all time favourite songs are composed by him, one is Romantic  “Mannikka Mattaya” (மன்னிக்க மாட்டாயா) from the film Janani (1985) and the other Spiritual “Pullanguzhal Kodutha” (புல்லாங்குழல் கொடுத்த மூங்கில்களே) penned by legendary Kaviarasu Kannadasan. Apart from this I have listened many times his compositions of older movies including M.G.R’s Anbe Vaa (1966),  Nagesh starring Kadalikka Neramillai (1964) & Sivagi Ganesan’s Karnan (1964). In latter movies that I probably watched in theatres I like his compositions on Mohan’s Mela Thiranthathu Kadhavu (1986), Kamal’s Simla Special (1982), S.Ve.Shekar’s Manal Kayiru (1982), Rajini’s Thillu Mullu (1981) and Kamal/Rajini’s Ninaithale Inikkum (1979).

Today’s launch event venue was Russian Cultural Hall, Kasturi Ranga Road, Chennai. The event started late by 60 minutes at 7PM instead of 6PM due to late arrival of chief guest who I suppose was delayed by his old age. A video clip of Kannadasan was shown where he recollects his trip with MSV to Afghanistan & Soviet Union, he mentions how MSV mesmerized the audience by his replaying of Russian composer Tchaikovsky when they visited a concert hall in Russia. In today’s event the dignitaries on stage were accomplished octogenarian’s and they recollected fascinating tales about the humbleness & dedication to music by MSV, it was quite an inspiring event.

Saregama have released the entire album in YouTube here, enjoy.

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Chennai Puthaga Sangamam

Regular readers of this blog are familiar with my fondness for books and spending lot of money in book fairs. This week in Chennai there is a new book fair titled Chennai Puthaga Sangamam  organized by National Book Trust & PSRPI .The venue was YMCA Royapettah (opposite to Royappetah General Hospital) which is different from YMCA Nandanam grounds where annual Chennai Book Fair happens. Today I went to check out this fair which is being held from 18-27 April 2014. The YMCA grounds at Royappetah had sufficient car parking which is rarity now in the city,  the hall was less crowded which made it comfortable to check out each stall and the books they carried.

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It was pretty much in the same template as Chennai Book Fair with over 200 book stalls, mostly Tamil publishers and local distributors.

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I had bought tons of books this January in the Chennai Book Fair 2014, so I tried my best to come out with buying just one book. The book I purchased was Digital Photography by Steve Luck, though its a 2006 edition I got the GBP 14.99 book for a steal at Rs.230 and it was in mint condition.

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Export of IT and ITES – Opportunities & Challenges

I was looking forward to the panel discussion today on “Export of IT and ITES – Opportunities & Challenges” organized by Computer Society of India & IEEE Chennai chapters at Hindustan Chamber of Commerce, Greams Road (Opp to Fruit shop on greams road), The panel listed prominent names in Industry and moderated by Mr.S.Mahalingam (Former CFO of TCS):

  • Business Opportunities by Mr. K. Purushothaman, Regional Director,
    NASSCOM – Tamil Nadu & Kerala
  • Challenges & Issues by Mr. K. Senthil Nayagam, Senior Vice President,
    Hexaware Technologies Limited
  • Enabling Opportunities by by Mr. James Golsen, Principal Commercial
    Officer, US Consulate, Chennai, Mr.Golsen couldn’t make it to the event due to an illness and was represented by another officer of the department
  • Service Tax Aspects by Mr. K. Vaitheeswaran, Advocate & Tax Consultant
  • Income Tax Aspects by Mr. S. Srikanth, Chartered Accountant, M/s. Karpagam & Co

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Mr.Mahalingam in his introduction talked about how in 1980s the goal of $50 Million IT Exports from India was considered as a stretch goal, the industry today doing over 100 Billion US Dollars. Mr.Senthil Nayagam touched on the challenges faced today by the IT Industry including shortage of talent pool, attrition and competition from other Asian destinations including Vietnam, Philippines and China for the lower-end part of the business.

Mr.Srikanth echoed the sentiments of the audience when he talked about the challenges the industry faced with prevailing Income Tax policies of Government of India including the long delays prevailing in SEZ benefits that are rightfully due to the promoters and on the TDS (Withdrawal tax) interpretations by the department. Mr.Vaitheeswaran is a tax law expert who I have listened to in many previous occasions, I found him to be a speaker who could cut the chase even on the complex subject he talks on, today too he was in his form. He rightfully pointed out the fruitlessness of having the Appellate level in Income Tax for hearing cases when in reality they always refer the case to Tribunal. He elaborated on the less known facts in the Service Tax rules covering Exports, timely and useful.

Overall the event turned out to be a mixed bag for me with most of the panelists covering on the road travelled whereas I was looking forward to the road ahead.  I got a chance to meet half-a-dozen industry acquaintances of mine after a long time. The dinner turned out to be a simple affair but enjoyable and I topped it with a juice mix at the near by Fruit shop in greams road.

IACC-Listen to the leader

Indo-American Chamber of Commerce (IACC) in Chennai organizes many events for the local business community throughout the year. One of their regular series is “Listen to the Leader” where an imminent personality talks on their journey. Apart from the talks providing quality food for thought, you also can feed your stomach as a buffet breakfast accompanies the talk.

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For today’s talk the guest speaker was CA.T.N. Manoharan, Past President of ICAI and Padma Shri Awardee. The event was held in Taj Club House, Mount Road, Chennai. In the 30 minutes, Mr.Manoharan walked the audience through his experience of handling the post Satyam fraud events and the lessons learnt.

Background of Satyam saga: In January 2009, Satyam Computers  Services Founder & Chairman Mr.Ramalinga Raju admitted in an open letter for committing fraud by falsifying top-line and fixed deposits held by the company (full report here).  Till then Satyam though India’s fourth largest IT Services firm, it was most respected for its talent pool and domain expertise. Within days after the scandal broke out, Government of India in a timely fashion dissolved the existing board of the company and appointed a 6 member (initially 3) board including Mr.T.N.Manoharan. In the next few months, the new board under guidance of Government of India, stabilizes the firm through various measures including giving confidence to deserting clients, winning employees trust back, arranging short term debts for cash flow and finally identifying a buyer (which was Tech Mahindra) to take over the company. After few years, Satyam got merged with Tech Mahindra and rest is history.

In the lively and entertaining talk, Mr.Manoharan traced on various steps the government appointed board took and how the 4-6 months was very challenging. He rightfully attributed the turn around of Satyam to two things, first the commitment of Satyam employees and second was the timely intervention by Government of India (a rarity nowadays). Mr.Manoharan assessment for Mr.Raju’s action to be greed and eagerness to please the stock market under any account; what would have been started as an one-off massaging of figures to tide over a difficult quarter turning quickly into an addiction for the firm and as Mr.Raju himself has said in his open letter “it was like riding a tiger and not knowing how to get down without being eaten“.

Mr.Manoharan says he quickly realized the magnitude of the problem, when he landed in Hyderabad Airport soon after his appointment to Satyam board by Government, he was warmly received by a company arranged private chauffeur; few minutes away from Airport, the Driver requests Mr.Manoharan’s help for settling his employers dues first over others!. Few days back, Taxi rental firms from around the world would have queued in front of Satyam for getting his “big” orders.  Then the immediate issue was cash flow, the company turned out to have little of vitamin-M and the month end salary expenses for Satyam was few hundred crores. Thankfully only the Fixed Deposits and Top Line was falsified, but Satyam had huge land blocks and other assets with which banks came forward for a line of credit. Crossing this bridge, the attention turned into getting employees trust and clients confidence. The board nominated Mr.Manoharan to be full time in Hyderabad to handle the day-to-day affairs which turned out to be a blessing in hindsight for speed of decision making.

Throughout the talk, Mr.Manoharan shared numerous anecdotes, quotes, observations & jokes from his vast experience. Below are few I could recollect:

In India, Balance Sheet have Assets on Right-Hand side and Liabilities on Left-Hand Side.  In cases like Satyam, there was nothing LEFT (remaining) in RIGHT (hand side) and nothing RIGHT (Correct) in LEFT (hand side)

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(Image courtesy: Tally Solutions)

In the enquiry by Railway safety board to the engine driver after a train running into a paddy field killing many hundreds. The board asks the driver what happened. For which the driver says a man came running into the track; board member interrupts to say don’t you have the training to teach you to value over hundred of lives on-board over the one person. The driver responds saying Yes, I know that but the man who returned running back from track to the paddy didn’t know and I have to chase him down with the train Smile

In business we need to listen to your head in complying with law and to your heart in dealing with people. Adapt with technology/knowledge changes but stay static on fundamentals.  Ability may take you to the top but it takes Character to stay there. To live beyond your age ‐ Love people and use wealth. Unfortunately in Satyam’s case the promoters loved wealth and used people

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For a question on how he decided to accept this risky assignment (because immediately after Satyam fraud broke out, the company turned out to be a pariah), Mr.Manoharan replied saying he and the other board members took this assignment as a service to nation and with all humility & nobility. In the end it turned out well for all stakeholders connected to the firm (Employees, Clients, Vendors and the country). Mr.Manoharan got his work recognized through a Padma Shri award (one of India’s coveted civilian award) from President of India in March 2010.